tv Charlie Rose PBS December 28, 2015 12:00pm-1:01pm PST
>> rose: welcome to the program, and merry christmas. tonight, a conversation with one of the most successful filmmakers of all time, george lucas. recently traveled to thents of skywalker ranch in northern california for a conversation about filmmaking, "star wars" and his future. we discuss all that and more. >> i don't need the money. my interests have shifted to more mature things. i mean, i did the kids thing. i did it. to me, it's six films. >> rose: why do you say "a kidsçó things"? >> well, it is a kids film. adults like it. it's for everybody, obviously, but the kinds of movies i'm going to make now are much more demanding of ançó audience, and
it's on a subject matter most people don't want to see movies about. >> rose: george lucas for the hour, next. >> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by: >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: you have every honor that a man could have. you've got oscars -- >> no. >> rose: no oscars? no oscar. >> rose: why are they giving you this award then if you don't
have an oscar? >> i don't have a lot of awards to be honest with you. i have the urban award and i get a lot of little awards. >> rose: yeah. i've got two emmys but i've never had an academy award. i have been nominated but never won. i'm too popular for that. >> rose: meaning what? they don't give academy awards to popular films. >> rose: are you proud of the fact you make films people want to go see? >> yeah. >> rose: popularity is okay with you? >> popular is okay with me. i think it's a very important part of society, and if you're making a work of art or film or whatever and nobody seat sees ii don't see where it does anybody any good. >> rose: francis makes movies that satisfies one person. >> that's right, but i'm not
sure, society at large, it's helping much. i'm going to now make movies only i want to see. i always wanted to do that. i fell into popular movies by accident. i always disliked hollywood theatrical movies. i don't want anything to do with them. >> rose: but you knew how to make them. >> i guess it was embedded in my dna. it's that particular thing which is -- i'm not sure whether it's a coincidence that people like stephen and i grew up in the same environment -- >> rose: stephen speilberg? stephen speilberg. we liked the movies. there was a whole generation right there that came of age in the '60s that grew up on movies. i didn't really grow up on movies, but it was a part of my life in terms of it wasn't -- you know, i came up at the beginning of television, and the
whole idea of visualñi tore storytelling and that sort of thing was at the moment. i got in there and what i wanted to do and what a lot of the people wanted to do was make films people liked and enlighten them, entertain them, and that's what we were in the business for. we liked movies. >> rose: the irony is you were considered one of the most innovative filmmakers ever in the history of cinema. >> but the innovation part is because i -- i hate to say the word "artist," but i will -- they, for thousands of years were also the scientists, the engineers, and the artists because, in order to accomplish certain works, especially in architecture, you had to figure out how to accomplish it because, you know, i mean, they
sat with the dome in florence for hundreds of years because they couldn't figure out how to put the dome on it. and the architecture studied the pantheon and other places where they had big domes because they used to do it in rome. by the time they got to the renaissance, it was after the dark ages and nobody knew how to do that stuff anymore. so he had to invent the ratcheting pully in order to be able to get oxen to pull bricks up that high. >> rose: so that's what you have done, you have been able to create new things because no one had done it before and you had to do it on your own. >> because i had a story to tell. there was a gap between what was possible and where my vision is, and i've had to fill that gap. you don't invent technology and then figure out what to do wit. you come up with an artistic problem, then you have to invent the technology to accomplish it.
it's the opposite of what most people think it is, and any artist will tell you that. art on all levels is just technology, which is why -- you know, people will say monkeys can do maintainings. well, they can't -- paintings. well, they can't, really. they can scribble like my 2-year-old. but if you want to say, i want to convey an emotion to another human being, that's something only human beings can do. animals can do it by roaring in your face or biting your hand off and that usually has an effect, but to do it in a painting, a play, a story, in poetry or anything that's in the arts, you have to be a human being. >> rose: so we talk about artists, filmmaker, innovator, director, storyteller -- >> well, a director is just somebody who's got a fetish with
making the world to be the way he wants it to be. sort of narcissistic. >> rose: that's you? all directors, they're no different. >> rose: and you're a director. >> yes. all directors are vaguely like emperors, which is i want to build society to reflect me and what i want, and the greatñi thg about it, you don't have to kill a lot of people and build a lot of stuff and spend a lot of money if you're a king and want to do that. it's good for society, obviously. but a director can do it with a lot less money and just say i'm going to create a world where people can fly. >> rose: so what do "star wars" and indiana jones say about the world you want to create? >> "star wars" and "indiana jones," especially "star wars" -- "indiana jones "was just done for fun to entertain people, and there were messages
in there about archeology and also what we believe in terms of religion and that sort of thing, but "star wars," that was what i was saying about the patron createsñi the propaganda and wht i want to do is go back to some of the older propaganda, which was consistent through all the societies, which is mythology, but to say what do they all believe because they were all -- this propaganda was created independently. >> rose: yeah. and what are the things they all actually believe? we're talking about relationships with your father, society, with history, with the gods, all of this stuff is old, but there are psychological motif created through primarily oral storytemning that explained what and who they believed in. so what i wanted to do is go back and find the psychological
proteffs that under-- psychological motifs that underline that because those grow out of popularrism and to say that not all but a majority of people -- boys -- have a certain psychological relationship with their fathers, and that's been going on through history, and trying to explain that to say we know your darkest secret and, therefore, you're part of us because we all know the same things. we know what you're thinking about your mother. we know what you think about your brother. we know what you think about your father -- really. and those are the things that make people say, hey, thisñi is why we believe this stuff and, again, the crudest part of that in terms of the religious spiritual thing is some people have taken those ideas and then distorted them and you end up in
a cult where they're using the psychological tools to make you adhere to their society, and part of it is they have to keep it closed. >> rose: and to them. and to them. but it's the same thing. and again, you go through history. and, you know, in most cases they have open societies. they were going to kill toçó go outside the wall so let's build a wall around the thing to defend ourselves. so they were self-fulfilling, isolated human events. >> rose: because you have worn all the hats -- filmmaker, director, storyteller, writer, a technological innovator -- what do you want the first line of your obituary to say? >> i was a great dad. i tried. >> rose: but do you consider yourself any of those things first -- writer, storyteller,
filmmaker, problem solver? >> first is dad. i gave up directing in order to become a dad. you know, for 15 years directing, i just ran a company and was an innovator, but it was not doing what i really liked to do, which is actually make movies. >> rose: because you wanted to be a dad? >> because, yeah -- and i never was -- it was one of those things where you don't expect it to happen, but once i was a dad, it was like a bolt of lightning struck me, and i ended up getting divorced around that i think i'm just going to take care of my daughter, because that seems like the right thing to do. you know, i was right after return of the jedi. i made all the movies and i wasn't going to escape "star wars" and my central concern was my daughter so i just said i'm
going to raise my daughter. we adopted another daughter and a son, and it wasn't until, like, 15 years later that i actuallx"said, okay, i'm going to go back not and direct movies again. so it was very much -- and, in the mean time, i developed a lot of technology to do things that i could not do when i was doing "star wars," because "star wars" is a science fiction film, a fantasy film. it pushes the technological limits of the medium -- science fiction, fantasy, those sorts of things. many things can't be done, they just can't. and there is an equation ultimately which is how popular is something, how much does it cost, and then subtract one for the other and decide whether they're going to do it or not. so a lot of the films when i was doing "star wars," right after "star wars," they didn't have room for the spectacular.
they only had room for the street movies, which is what i had been doing before that. so doing something that was sort of, you know, an epic, an historical piece, science fiction, fainted circumstances any of those things, you couldn't do it because it cost too much money and technically you couldn't accomplish it. >> rose: kennedy center honoree, that's a big deal. what does it mean to you? >> well, i could be glib -- >> rose: no, just be real. i'm sitting here with a guy who is the happiest he's probably ever been -- married, 2-year-old daughter, all the money he'll ever need sitting in this remarkable place where you live, you've got everything, but here is a saying that you are really one of america's finest artists.
what does that mean to you that these people honor you sitting next to the president at the kennedy center? >> well, you know -- >> rose: don't be glib. be real. >> well, i will be real. i'm not much into awards. it doesn't mean that much to me because i've gone through this, and i know it's a group of people getting together and saying we're going to give you this award, and a lot of them it's just basically you're there to draw eyeballs. >> rose: but there are awards and there are awards, and i've got to believe that this means something to you. >> well, it does mean something to me. >> rose: what is it? i don't know. you know, again, the meda -- i t the medal of arts, the medal of technology. >> rose: it's just you're getting another award, he'll show up if you want him to, but he doesn't care?
>> yeah, i know it's about the tv show, it's not about me. >> rose: it's not a tv show. it's an honor the television show doesn't do very well of showing in the middle of december. so it's not a tv show. it's not the oscars. it's in washington where all of washington turns out and selects only five people each year and it's not based on what you've done that year, it's based on what you have achieved in your career and, all of a sudden -- and putting you up in a pantheon of people that you really admire, like your friend stephen speilberg. >> we give each other awards all the time. francisñr and i give awards to each other all the time. we're in a group, obviously marty and i do the signing thing, where we all happen to be, and you've got to remember -- >> rose: yes... -- i hate to say this, but there are thousands of awards shows every year. so, you know, i'll take a few, a couple of the ones that are meaningful to me, like the
kennedy center honors. those are the ones i will participate in. but i get a lot of otv%t ones. >> rose: is there competition at all between you and stephen? >> sure. >> rose: what i what is it? who can do the better work. >> rose: and how do you compare -- >> and it's not better work in termin -- it's the oh wow facto. he makes ten times more movies than i do so i have to say oh, wow, more than he does. i don't resent how many times. it's just i enjoy i can see a movie and he can one up me and do something that i say, gee, that's unbelievable. >> rose: he says about you, american graffiti is one of the best films ever made. >> that's very easy to say. >> rose: because of what he was? >> no, because he went wow. >> rose: and why did he go wow over american graffiti?
>> because it was so different and exuberant. >> rose: okay, go ahead. what else? >> and had a lot of underpinnings of the kinds of things that a filmmaker wants to have in their movie, a lot of observations and sort of philosophicalñr -- musings and t was in the guise of an entertainment film and most people don't pay attention to that stuff but they knew it immediately. critics have a tendency to be extremely glib. they have to look at a movie or two movies a day and they rattle off in an hour what their feels are about it. as a result, you get a very surfacey point of view or ideological -- >> rose: i'm asking a filmmaker,ñi i'm not asking critics about this film. >> filmmakers -- i know how to make movies. i went to film school, i have a knack for it, i studied it very
well, practiced and i know what i'm doing. a lot of filmmakers try but, on the technical, telling a story, how you put the story together, how you make it effective emotionally, i know how to do that, and part of it made a lot of ño!% i tell people, i've produced more movies that are failures than successes. as a director, most of my films have been big successes except for one, and a couple of the ones have been successes but most haven't. i know what's going to work and not work going in, but i love movies. i know a lot of movies aren't popular and you can say that going in. one of the reasons i retired is so i could make movies that
aren't popular because in the world we live in, in a system we created for ourselves in terms of it's a big industry, you cannot lose money. so the point is that you have to -- you are forced to make a particular kind of movie, and i used to say this all the time when people -- you know, back when russia was the union soviet social republics. they say, aren't you glad you're in america? i say i know a lot of russian filmmakers who have a lot more freedom than i have. all they have to do is be careful about criticizing the government. >> rose: what do you have to do? >> adhere to a very narrow line of commercialism, and there is only certain -- when i started in the '70s, it was likeñr this. you know, i could say russia is like this. but we were like this. and i flaunted that system.
my first film is definitely not an american film and i shoved it in sideways and francis hp"(ed me -- >> rose: right, right. they would have never let me make the movie if they knew what i was doing. >> rose: could george lucas be george lucas if early on he earned the right to make "star wars." you negotiated that coming out of the first film and, therefore, it made you very mitch and ver -- very rich and y independent. so you made movies because you had independence and built a great business in addition to making films. so, therefore, you could preach to anybody you could preach to because you weren't dependent on anybody. >> well, tissue is the ultimate reality of it, which is i'm a unique blend of a practical, price tag fact person and a
fantasy completely daydreaming, you know, guy who's not very practical at all. >> rose: and you combine those two. >> well, i didn't, but the dna -- or we can say whatever force was at work there. >> rose: whoever created george lucas gave him those two skills. >> yes, and this they're the opposites. >> rose: yeah. i've always been that way. francis, when we started, we started making movies, francis was very much -- it was odd because when we started he was a hollywood director. >> rose: right. and i was this crazy kid doing art films. i said i'm never going to go into the theatrical business. i only want art films. i want to do documentary films. this is what i want to do and i'm excited. my ambition then was ultimately to be michael moore. >> rose: a document
rifilmmaker? >> -- a documentary filmmaker? yeah, you know, and cause trouble. i group up in the '60s, i'm a '60s kind of guy, always have been, and i grew up in the san francisco bay area and, you know, that's just -- that was my environment that i grew up in and i was perfectly happy to do it. i did not want the to make theatrical films. i was making films in school, winning awards. francis and i moved to san francisco because neither one of us liked the hollywood environment. we started the company up here. i got to take a student film and turn it into a feature. it was a totem pole. it was a visual storytelling. you know, the characters and the plot were not as important as the metaphor and the symbolism
and, as a result -- and the emotional connection between the moving image and the audience. so i did that and, obviously, our company went bankrupt and destroyed everything. but there is always a silver lining. it caused him to be forced to pay off the debts which then did the godfather. he challenged me and said stop doing this arts artsy fartsy st. he said, i dare you make a comedy. i said, i can do anything. >> rose: you're george lucas. has nothing to do with george lucas. it has to do with i'm 23, i can do anything. you know, that's what you think. by 30, you get that beaten out of you. but when you're young you sort of think you can do anything, so i did it. and that was successful and started me on a whole different
train to do, again, when i started "star wars," i certainly didn't think it was going to be a hit, i didn't think american tbrgraffiti was going to be a h. the studio hated the film and said we're not going to release it. maybe we can see if it's a movie of the week but we can't release it in theaters, it's not that good. so that's where i was. i started working on "star wars" and i was just doing it because i needed a job, you know, to eat, and i wanted to do this kind of experimental idea in my mind idea about mythology and take what i loved when i was young which was republic serials and transform the movie i wanted to make into a popular genre, and out of that came both "indiana jones" and "star wars."
but i thought that was my last movie of this thing, then i was going back to what i really wanted to do, and i said, you know, at least at the end i wanted to have done an old-fashioned movie, an on-sound stages with makeup people and, you know, sets and, you know, do the thing, make one of those movies before i'm kicked out. and, you know, it -- the fluke of american graffiti becoming a hit was, like, oh, my god, now what? that will be the only time it will ever happen. so it was a hit, which would probably be my only hit. but when you say "star wars," it's not a science fiction film. you have large dogs flying spaceships and you describe it and you say, oh, dear -- >> rose: he's in his own
world. >> and, of course, most of my friends are where i was. i was further into the art world than they were, but i threw that all away after american graffiti. graffiti -- i mean, no one expected me to do a comedy based on thx. i said, i'm not that funny a guy in real life. >> rose: i'll show them i can do comedy. >> i'll show those guys. but when i was doing "star wars," they said why are you making a children's film? i said because i have things to say i can actually influence kids, adolescents, 12-year-olds, you know, trying to make their way into the big world and that's basically what mythology was was to say this is what we believe in, these are our rules, this is what we are as a society, and we don't do that. the last time we were doing that was westerns. of course, this was in the '70s and the westerns piddled
out in the '50s. so it was like we didn't have any national mythology. so i said, i'm going to try this and see if it works, and i'm just doing it, you know. and it would be fun because, you know, i like space ships and i like adventure and fun and all this stuff. so i'll do it. but i figured that would be the last i'll do it, i'll have done my thing. then i got in trouble because the script got too long and then i had three scripts instead of one script and i had to try to get them all finished, and i got hooked into this tar baby and i couldn't get out. and it was a while before i finally realized no matter what happened, i'm never going to get out. i'm always going to be george "star wars" lucas, no matter how hard i try to be something else. >> rose: when you decide no more movies to be made by george lucas and you look back at a body of work, are you going to
say "star wars" was my crowning achievement cinematically? >> cinematically, i would say probably yes. >> rose: okay. in what way is it not your crowning achievement? >> i don't know. again, it's hard to -- you know, i have a pretty low opinion of my movies, so, to me, i've always said, well, these didn't really turn out the way i hoped they would and i can see all the flaws and all the stuff. i mean, american graffiti is the most fun movie i made in terms of what i created. the most fun movie to work on was "indiana jones" because i didn't have to correct it. i had the best director in the world. that's the one where everything went right, which happens very rarely in real life, you know, but it just gets better and better and better and you just can't believe how wonderful it turns out. the other ones you suffer through and you think they're terrible and then people say, oh, they're great.
but it's hard to get that they're actually terrible, i can see all the scotch tape and rubber bands holding it together, and that's particularly true of "star wars" number four because it barely got made and i was so disappointed about what my vision was and what it actually turned out to be that i complained about it a lot right after the movie in an interview, turned out to be 35% of what i wanted. but i did have vision. but my vision was way beyond what was possible and i did the best i could, and then after a lot of people said well, this is the greatest movie of all time, i said, well, okay,ñiçó maybeñis pretty food good and we'll liveh all that. part of it was to continue the story, was just a thing to finish the story. then after that, i worked on the technology and said, well, gee, now i can tell the back story because the back story seems to
have gotten lost. and when it was one movie, it was much easier to see the back story of darth vader. >> rose: didn't you intend to in the beginning create likely three move -- concrete really three movies when you started and you decided to take one part of the life story? >> yeah, i took the first act. >> rose: there were three and you took the first. >> but the first act didn't really work and i said, okay, what i'm going to have to do is take the ending of the first film and put it on the third film. you have a bunch of stuff on your desk and say let me take that and stick that in here. i wasn't worried about the sequals because i wanted this to succeed and work. i moved on to the other ones and i said, ben kenobi is dead, how will i fix that?
what am i going to do about i already blew the death star up, and that's what the ending, is so the story stretched around. it's a creative process where you're doing things and you maneuver through your imagination. but part of it was simply when i got down to some of the other movies i was able to create an environment and world that wasn't possible when i started the first one, so, to me, a lot of the things were just technical or, you know, in the end getting yoda to do a sword fight, which i had always wanted to do but could never do it because he was a muppet. >> rose: you said famously flash gordon was the inspiration and the bible. >> well, it wasn't the bible by a long shot. it was the inspiration. at the same time, with flash gordon, i knew i wanted to make a movie based on the serials, but it wasn't going to be flash gordon.
so i did try to get the rights flash gordon couldn't and that was good because if i had it would have set me off. i realized after i didn't get it, i said, i really don't want flash gordon. i want a space opera that's like flash gordon, but if i were making that movie, i would probably take flash gordon out of it and take mongo and all that stuff, i don't want to do that stuff because what i really wanted to do was more on the lines of "star wars" and less on the lines of flash gordon. there is a similar later between the two but there is differently a difference in perspective about how they're doing it. so that set me in the right direction of setting something up completely new but inspired by westerns. people go through and say these are all the inspirations that influenced "star wars," and they are. just like whether you're a writer, a painter, whether you're a politician, in theory,
you steeped yourself in the genre you're working in, and you know all the various kinds of things, and you can pull the best parts of what you, june, of what you learned -- of what you, you know, of what you learned in theory. it works everywhere but politics because they're doomed to repeat themselves every few years because they do not listen to history. >> rose: where did the idea of the force come from? >> the whole thing in "star wars" was to take, again, ideas, psychological ideas from social issues, political issues, spiritual issues and condense them down into an easy-to-tell story of those stories. the force basically came from, you know, distilling all of the religious beliefs, spiritual
beliefs, going all around the world, all through time, finding the similarities and then creating an easy-to-deal-with metaphor for what religion is, and the point was is that the -- in the very beginning when you have people worshiping rocks and deer, they called it life force, they called it "the force." that's what it was. and, so, where did it come from? basically life force of what primitive religions believed in. then you go through all the other religions and they have the same thing. it's all the same -- you know, whether you believe in god, don't believe in god, believe in religion, don't believe in religion, the issue is that you either don't believe there is anything else out there, which would be hard to live with -- i
mean, i believe something's out there, i just don't know what it is. i have no idea or would i dare to guess, but i do know religions aren't based on it. there are human psychological needs that have been put together mostly to create the society. >> rose: but you believe something's out there? >> yeah. >> rose: so here's what's interesting to me about ""star wars" 2. to hear you talk about it, there was a very personal film, very. >> i thought them up. you can say, well, "star wars" was just a kiddie movie. you know, the idea of making it for kids and that it was a fun kiddie move where, all that -- kiddie movie, all that stuff is important to me and i liked "star wars" and i did it not because i thought it was going to bake makean make any money be
at the end the studio hated it. nobody thought it would be a hit, especially me. >> rose: a personal film becomes a block burster. >> and at the same time american graffiti. >> rose: and here's what stephen said. he said, it is the moment in which the entire industry changed. "star wars" is the moment when the industry changed. >> well, it changed for the good and for the bad. >> rose: yep. and, you know, again, when you invent things -- well, you don't invent things. when you bring new things into a society, you can either -- it's like the balance of the force. you can either use it for good or for evil. and what happens when there is something new, people have a tendency to overdo it.
they abuse it. now, there were two things that got abused with "star wars" and are still being abused. one, when "star wars" came out, everybody said, oh, it's a silly movie, it's just a bunch of space battles and stuff, it's not real, there is nothing behind it. i said, well, there is stuff behind it, it's not just a space battle. there is more to it than that. it's much, much more complicated than that, but nobody would listen. it's just, well, it's simple and we like the spaceships and the stuff. to it was fun. so the spaceships and that part of the science fantasy, whatever, got terribly abused. of course, everybody went out and made space ship movies and they were all horrible and lost tons of money. you said, well, there is more to it than that you can't just go out and do spaceships.
and the other part, which is the technology, which is oh, we'll just take this new technology, it's great, especially when it came down late tore digital tech -- later to digital technology where you can really do anything, people likely abused it. there was color and sound. whenever there is a new tool, people go crazy and forget there is a story which is the point. you're using the story to use the tools, not using the tools to tell story. >> rose: i understand that. the other thing that got abused in a capitalist society, especially the american point of view, is the studio said, wow, we can make a lot of money, this is a license to kill. and they did it. the only way you cannot do that is not take chances, only do something that's proven. you have to remember, "star wars" came from nowhere.
"american graffiti" came from nowhere. there was nothing like it. now if you do anything, it's not aa sequal or a tv series. >> rose: that's the down side of "star wars." >> yes, and it shows an enormous lack of imagination and fear of creativity on the part of an industry. i mean, corporations are not known for -- maybe not silicon valley, but the old institutions are not known for being -- they're knowing for being risk averse. every single movie is a risk. the movie business is exactly like professional gambling, except you hire the gambler. you use some crazy kid with long hair that's, like, i don't get
this guy at all, you give him $100 million, and you say go to the tables and come back with $500 million. that is a risk. now, the studios don't want to think of it that way. they say, well, maybe if we told him that he couldn't bet on red, maybe if we told him if we did market research and we realized red wasn't, so they trie minimize their risk and, of course, you're hiring the kid to be -- to take risks, to be creative, to do things that never have been done before, never been tested. you have no idea whether they're going íoñ work or not. that's completely the antithesis of what a big, modern corporation is. they want to testñi things 360 ways. >> rose: hollywood is not like a big american corporation because it will just throw money away behind somebodyxd and have him or her go andñi figure out - >> but they don't know how to do that because they're basically corporate types.
they think -- the worst thing happens when they think they know how to do it, then they start making decisions and ensure it's not going to work. >>ñi rose: but you're george lucas and you were ahead of your time with "americanñr graffiti" and "star wars." have you been ahead of your time since then? >> well, you know, i haven't directed a movie since then. >> rose: i know that. producing? i don't know. i was sort of ahead of my time with red tails, an all-black film. >> rose: but you're the only person who could have gotten that made. >> i paid for it myself. they wouldn't distribute it, make it or advertise it. >> rose: because of racism or what. >> they just says the market research says nobody will go to the movie. >> rose: there you go. nobody will go to "star wars." market research may have said -- >> but this one was -- >> rose: okay. we know -- there is a certain -- over time, a lot of these issues that were just
becoming -- they were dimly aware of them have become institutionalized. now they know that movie will do well in france, this movie will do well in denmark, this movie you can't do in asia. they got their market share and do their analysis and say we're not going to make the movie. it has nothing to do with making a movie somebody can enjoy. it has nothing to do with that. i made money in spite of myself and i think it's because i didn't care whether it was a hit or not a hit, i wanted to make this movie as a movie, and that's the thing they won't do and they can't do it, it's not in their constitution to do that. i have a fiduciary duty to my stockholders, you know, that's why i won't become public. one of the reasons i sold my company was i was starting to make movies that were more
personal and were obviously losing a lot of money and i said i really can't do this much more because the company will be dragged down and i had 2,000 employees. i had people to think about. so i said the best way to handle this is to sell it and then take the money, put it in a bank account -- i call it my yacht because a lot of my friends have a yacht and i'm not going to buy one, but i will take the money, put it in bank account, and use it to make movies that are experimental and i have no way of knowing whether they will work and i will see if they work. i don't have to show them to an audience -- >> rose: so when am i going to see that move? >> you're not. you might -- (laughter) first of all, you know those movies don't make money. red tails, perfect example. not only does it not make money, you can't get anybody to distribute it or put any advertising money behind it. it loses money no matter what.
so why go through all that, get bad reviews, all the crazy people yelling and screaming. why not just make the movie for yourself and your friends. >> rose: that's where you are today? >> yeah, i'm doing what i wanted to do back when i started, but i'm going to learn things, and the things i learn, possibly i will pass on to other friends of mine and other people who are directors to say, you know, i didn't know you could do that. that's what directors do because they learn from what all their peers are doing. you see how they manipulate film, the visual moving image. and doing things that have never been done before and that's what i want to do because in the movie business you cannot take a risk, you cannot do something that doesn't work. you don't get a second chance. i've taken second chances but i just take them to polish them. at the same time, there is no
experimenting. there is no experimenting in the movies. what you do is every day, on the set, what you're doing has to be right. if it's not right, and you make the mistake enough, the film will fail. if the film fails, the people lose their money and you usually don't get another job. >> rose: but is this what you believe today that, in your life's experience, you know how to make a popular movie, but that's just not what you want to do at this stage in your life? >> yeah. why would i? >> rose: you don't need the money. >> i don't need the money. my interests have shifted to more mature things. i mean, i did the kids' thing. i did it. to me it's six films and -- >> rose: why do you say the kids thing? >> it's a kids film.
adults like it. it's for everybody, obviously. but the kinds of movies i'm going to make now are much more demanding of an audience and most of the audience won't have anything to do with it and it's on subject matter most people don't want to see movies about, but i do. you know, i've made movies for me that i wanted to see, but i knew what they were. you know, i said, okay, this is this movie, this is this movie, this is this movie. and in producing films where i was able to get other people to put their money in, studios -- i wouldn't think of real people, only from corporations -- so, you know, it's a little bit of a robin hood thing. >> rose: let me just talk about the upcoming "sta "star w the force awakens." how do you feel about it if.
>> well, you know, i made the decision to sell the company, the "star wars." i made that decision because i looked at the future, i looked at the thought i was going to have a baby, was married and the fact that i wanted to build a museum and make experimental films. so my life was going on a different track. i noticed the last few movies i made were costing the company a lot of moneyñi and i didn't thik that was fair to the people that worked there or the company, and, so, i made a decision to move ahead on the next "star wars" movie and we were starting to do that. >> rose: so you were starting to make the next "star wars"? >> yes. >> rose: you as director, filmmaker. >> so we were working with açó writer, it wasn't quite working out. but i was also, you know, stepping away a little bit to -- and turning things over to kathó
kennedy. so what happened was disney said if you want the to talk about selling your company, we're very interested. because that started that ball rolling. and i knew -- you know, and i had theçó-9 outlines and we wee working on the scripts, so i sold it. but i knew when i sold it, i said, i've tried to make movies where i step away to sort of empire and return of the jedi, and after a couple of weeks i knew i couldn't do that. i had to stand over the shoulder of the director, help him,
whisper constantly, no, do this, do that, and be there to help guide it and it was much harder if i just directed it myself. >> rose: j.j. abrams. j.j. abrams. he's a good director, a friend, all these sort of things, but he's also a top director, company, film company, and disney, who was a little nervous -- you know, one of the issues was the first three movies had all kinds of issues. they looked at the stories and they said, we want to make something for the fans. so i said, all i want to do is tell a story of what happened. you know, it started here and went there and it's all about generations and it's about, you know, the issues of fathers and sons and grandfathers. it's a family soap opera, ultimately. i mean, we call it a space opera. but people don't realize it's actually a soap opera, and it's all about family problems and -- in fact, it's not about
spaceships. so they decided they didn't want to use the stories. they said they were going to do their own thing, so i decided, fine. but basically, i'm not going to try to -- -- if i get in there, i'm just going to cause trouble because they're not going to do what i want them to do and i don't want the control to do that anymore and all i do is muck it up. so i said i'm going my way and i'll let them go their way and it comes to a simple rule of life which is, when you break up with somebody, the first rule is no phone calls. the second rule, you don't go over to their house and drive by to see what they're doing. the third one is you don't show up at their coffee shop or other things. you just say, nope, go on, history, i'm moving forward, because every time -- and we all learn this from experience --
every time you do something like that you're opening the wound again and it just makes it harder for you. you have to put it behind you and it's a very, very, very hard thing to do. but you have to cut it off and say, okay, end of ball game, i have to move on. everything in your body says, don't, you can't. and these are my kids. >> rose: all the "star wars" films. >> all the "star wars" films. >> rose: they were your kids? well, they are. i loved them, i created them. i'm very intimately involved with them -- >> rose: and you sold them? i sold them toñi the white slavers that take these things and -- >> rose: okay, but having said all that and having talked to you for the last and known you for a while and admired you, i mean, it must hurtñi3w you. it's your family.ñi it's your story. it's you. >> but i knew there is three more stories and i knew that was probably going to take -- to do it right would take about ten
years. i said, i'm 70. i don't know whether i'll be here when i'm 80. you know, every ten years, the odds get less. so i said -- and i'm not ready -- because i wanted to do these other things. so i have to make the decision on my own that it's time for me to move on. it wasn't like they were taken away from me. and they felt they knew -- you know, they wanted to do a retromovey. i don't like that. every movie i work hard so make them different, different planets, different spaceships, to make it new. >> rose: are you at peace with this? >> yes. >> rose: as much as you can be? >> yes. i said, look, i'm fine. then you get to the thing, which is another thing that did i'd been through -- fortunately, i'm old enough to have been through all this stuff before, and that was i had to do it. and then you end up with the thing which is, you know, you've got to live with it and people are going to talk about it and
all that kind of stuff, it's like talking about your divorce or something, it's awkward but it's not painful. >> rose: do you have within you something that's a series of small personal films you said that's what you want to do? no more great "star wars" kind of adventure for george lucas. that's over. >> yeah. these are little, tiny movies that are experimental. they aren't using the same structure. i'm going back to where american graffiti was, or thx, where i completely changed the way you tell a story and using cinema. it's back -- i've produce add few films -- i've produced a few films like this. they weren't like what i would do but they were using the visual style instead of the book. >> rose: what's exciting,
george, is all of the stuff that's within you that made all of this, whether thx or american graffiti or "star wars" or all you contributed to indiana jones, it's all in you and whoc and that, in the end, is what you brought. it's your ideas andñi insight is what you brought to film. >> at the same time, i have been fascinated with the medium and i have been fascinated with the true nature of the medium, which is very different. it's been used more as a recording medium than as an art form unto itself, a and that's where the kind of movies that are called tom-toms, but in the beginning like in russia, this was a whole movement of how you televise --ñi tell visual storis basically without dialogue and all the things you use to tell the story and just use the film itself. it's esoteric. it hasn't comexd much further in 100 years. i'm going to try to take it into
something that is more of the stuff we've done up to this point. >> rose: thank you for doing this. >> thank you. >> rose: for more about this program and earlierñi episodes, visit us online at pbs.org and charlierose.com. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
>> announcer: the following kqed production was produced in high definition. ♪ >> must have soup. >> the pancake is to die for! [ laughter ] >> it was a gut bomb, but i liked it. in private moments about the food i had. >> i didn't like it. >> you didn't like it? oh, okay. >> dining here makes me feel rich. >> and what about dessert? pecan pie? sweet-potato pie?